Friday, December 29, 2006
The Hajj Flu
It's just after 11:30pm local time, and despite taking mega doses of seemingly every variety of vitamin and guzzling massive quantities of an irredeemably unpalatable cough syrup, I'm still just as sick (if not sicker) as I was when I arrived in Jeddah a little over a week ago.

Some back story: Before I left Riyadh to meet the Hajj coverage team, Schams told me that I needed to get my shots. As silly as that last sentence may sound, it's really no laughing matter. The Saudi Ministry of Health goes to great lengths to inform pilgrims of the need to get vaccinated. It's required that everyone performing the Hajj take, at the very least, the Meningococcal Meningitis vaccine and carry a certificate to prove it. Schams suggested I get a flu shot as well - to guard against contracting the dreaded "Hajj flu" (which is, essentially, a really, really bad cold that everybody I know who's covered the Hajj picks up at some point before the end of the assignment).

So, Tuesday, December 19th, in the midst of every other bit of chaos I was dealing with, and armed with a sense of foreboding that seems to only rear its ugly head whenever I'm in a hospital and realize that I'll have to once again face my innate (and rather immature) fear of needles, I went ahead and got both shots. I'm still not sure what exactly happened, but nary seven hours later, I was curled up in the fetal position, covered in blankets, and shivering. I'm lucky I wasn't too sick to make my 7:00am flight. Once I landed in Jeddah, though, the cough started. And I'm not talking about one of those weak, dry, hacking coughs. I'm talking about a constant, booming, full bodied, ribcage rattling cough that makes everyone around me recoil in horror. Whatever I do, I can't shake it. And therein lies my dilemma - every member of the CNN team is doing their utmost to not get sick, and here I am (the new guy), trying to ingratiate myself with the crew while spreading my germs. More than a little frustrating. What's worse: Now Zain, Schams and Adil are all coughing too. Gee, I wonder where they picked it up.
I have been following CNN's Hajj coverage for four years now and it's always good to see how you manage to do the reports that we see everyday. And as a journalist, I just imagine the challenge that is to cover it! I'm just preparing myself for my own Hajj coverage! Good lucky to the team, best wishes and happy new year!
My body aches just reading your ordeal! What a time to catch the flu!!! Keep up the good work!
try using some homeopathic meds to keep your lungs clear, e.g. byronia.
I caught the Haj flu from a colleague when he returned from Makkah last year. Not a pleasant ordeal. He only dropped into the office to tell us about his experience. He didn't catch the flu himself but was evidently carrying it.
Well, Muslims say that every time you suffer for something, even a prick from a thorn, some of your sins are erased. Maybe insha'Allah (if God wills it), this will be what's happening for you. Be safe, man.
Take care. I am an USA citizen who recently moved to Istanbul, Turkey. After teaching English for one month, I got sick. The school doctor said it was the flu but that quickly turned into pneumonia. It took one operation in which the doctors had to literally peel the infection from my lung. After a months stay in the hospital, I was able to go home. I had to stay at home for 3 weeks before returning to work. I am in my late 40 and never been sick before this. Take care of your health, it is nothing to take for granted.
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